Christian reflections · Family life

10 Ways to Pray

photo-1423784346385-c1d4dac9893aIt can be easy to fall into a prayer rut. We may pray the same type of prayers – for those struggling with health concerns, for example. We may always pray the same way or at the same time of day.

Or maybe your rut is that you don’t pray at all, really. It feels overwhelming and confusing and you’re not sure where to begin.

Whether you’re a prayer warrior or a prayer newbie, here are ten ways to infuse your prayer life with some new vitality.

1. Pray as if you’re speaking with a friend

Don’t worry about the words. Don’t rehearse what you’re going to say. Just talk. Out loud or in your head. Tell Jesus about your day. What went well and what you’d like a “do-over” on. What you hope for tomorrow. Thank him for what you love. Ask for change in the world.

Leave the “oh-most-gracious-and-holiest-of-all”s behind and enjoy time with God as yourself, without putting on a holy show.

2. Pray using the “Our Father”

It’s not often that Jesus leaves us with an instruction manual, but in the Gospels he says, plainly, “This is how you should pray.” Then he teaches his disciples the Lord’s prayer.

Whether you’re a debts-and-debtors Presbyterian like I am (woot, woot!), a trespasses-and-those-who-trespass-against-us person (so many WORDS!), or a more modern our sins/sins against us, this is a beautiful model for prayer.

It also always reminds me of the (probably apocryphal) story of a little boy who thought the line about trespassers actually said, “Forgive us our trash baskets, as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” Which, come to think of it, is a pretty good way to describe trespasses anyway.

3. Pray while you breathe

Ancient monastics sometimes taught a simple form of breath prayer.

Breathe in: Lord Jesus Christ

Breathe out: Son of God

Breathe in: Have mercy on me

Breathe out: A sinner

This works wonders when my preschooler is testing my patience (so… eighty-five thousand times per day?), and it has the added benefit of reminding me to breathe.

4. Pray using the Psalms

The Psalms are the ancient prayer book of the Bible. They are phenomenal tools for prayer. If you want more in-depth info on how to use them, check out Eugene Peterson’s beautiful guide, Answering God.

5. Pray together with friends

There is something about praying together that deepens friendships, tears down walls, and lifts up those who are struggling. When you share prayer requests, you share your heart.

I’ll always remember the friend who, at the end of the sweetest postpartum visit with me and my new son, ventured, “Can I pray for you?” I was so sleep deprived it hadn’t occurred to me to ask, but my eyes immediately welled up with tears. It meant the world, and her words were like rest to my exhausted momma’s soul.

Do you hesitate to ask if you can pray for your friends? Don’t.

6. Pray during worship

Gathering as the people of God to celebrate the work of God is often the highlight of my week. Sometimes I lead the prayers. Other times it’s a lay person. Either way, watching the heads of the congregation bow as each person joins in the act of praying – confessing, asking, thanking, remembering – it moves me.

The Holy Spirit moves in us. “Where two or three are gathered,” and all that.

7. Pray with your feet

There are seasons when I have no words. When something terrible has happened, or I’m just too tired to speak, or when something truly amazing has happened and words like “amazing” just aren’t enough. Our whole bodies can pray when our words fall short.

In each of the places we’ve lived, Daryl and I have walked and prayed. We’ve prayed over new homes, new cities, new churches. When I interned as a hospice chaplain in Tennessee, the seasoned chaplain who gave me the tour said, with reverence, “These halls are sacred. Thousands upon thousands of people have walked and prayed here.”

Walk and pray. Run and pray. Kneel in prayer. Nurse your baby in prayer. Use your body. It was C. S. Lewis who once noted that humans are “amphibious creatures” – having both body and soul, needing to use both body and soul in prayer.

God made our bodies, he loves them, and we can pray with our whole physical selves.

8. Pray at fixed hours

The concept is simple: choose a few times a day (meals; morning, noon, and night; 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm; etc.) and set yourself a reminder. Then, when those hours appear, pray.

Daryl uses this tool a lot. His phone buzzes, and I’ll see him pause, close his eyes, and take a moment or two for prayer. He likes the consistency of it, and the lack of pressure. If you know you’ll be praying again in a few hours, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed – like you need to pray for everyone and everything every time. If you’re less overwhelmed, you’re more likely to pray.

9. Tie your prayers to an everyday action

My dad used to pray for my sisters and my mom and I while he folded laundry. He was the folder in our house, and as he lifted shirts and pants and socks out of the basket, he’d pray for whoever they belonged to. I love this idea.

I love to cook, and I pray as I prepare meals, slice veggies, sift sugars, and whisk eggs. I pray for the person who will be eating with me, for the place the ingredients came from. It’s an everyday task, and it helps me remember to pray.

10. Pray for yourself

Sometimes this one’s the hardest. What do you want from God? In Matthew 10, Jesus asks a blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” If he asked you that and was ready to answer, what would you say?

Well guess what? He is ready to answer. So what will you say?

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